Trainee perceptions of resident duty hour restrictions: a qualitative study of online discussion forums


Objective Resident duty hour (RDH) restrictions in postgraduate medical education is a controversial yet important topic for study. There is limited literature on authentic trainee perceptions surrounding RDH restrictions to inform evaluation and future planning. Online forums are a widely accessible, yet underused resource, for insight into trainee perceptions. Our objective was to qualitatively assess trainee perceptions of RDH restrictions on online discussion forums.

Setting Online discussion forums; Premed101 (Canadian forum) and Student Doctor Network (SDN) (American forum).

Participants 6630 posts from 161 discussion threads; comprising 429 posts in 14 threads from Premed101 and 6201 posts in 147 threads from SDN. Posters included medical students, residents and attending physicians.

Design Data were analysed inductively and iteratively to create themes and subthemes. Cocoding, consensus-based decision making and an audit trail were used to ensure trustworthiness.

Results Key findings distilled across both forums include: the relationship between hours worked and competence, the inapplicability of blanket RDH restrictions to all specialties and the inter-relationship between fatigue and patient safety. Discussions of RDH restriction compliance and perceived consequence for the reporting of violations were also featured on the American SDN forum.

Conclusions The findings of this study reveal multiple themes pertinent to the implementation and revision of RDH restrictions. The most prominent theme was the inapplicability of blanket restrictions on duty hours theme due to the diversity of training needs across specialties and the environmental context of training programmes. Other discussions included the inter-relationship of patient safety and resident competence with duty hours. Lastly, concerns regarding the lack of transparency and psychological safety surrounding RDH violations, were discussed.

Area of Research:

Medical Education

Lead Researchers

Link to Publication


  1. Asif Doja

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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